ST. LOUIS — The Cardinals need a bat, and Barry Bonds is available for adoption. Manager Tony La Russa wants Bonds, and campaigned for him before the season. But Cardinals ownership and management quickly rejected La Russa's pitch.
And that still holds true. If you pressed La Russa, he would tell you that his No. 1 desire for the team is a hitter to bat fourth, behind Albert Pujols. And Pujols has often expressed admiration for Bonds, so the Cardinals' No. 1 star would undoubtedly be on board with bringing Bonds in. But Cardinals ownership and management will hear nothing of it.
Bonds, who turns 44 on July 24, was one of the game's most imposing hitters last season. Pitchers rarely challenged him, and he still had 28 homers in only 340 at-bats. Bonds drew 43 intentional walks, had an on-base percentage of .480 and a slugging percentage of .565.
His knees are bad, and Bonds doesn't cover much ground in left field. But if you need a bat, this one is formidable. And it's cheap. To hire Bonds, the Cardinals don't have to give up any players or draft picks. Bonds' agent has said Bonds would consider playing for the major-league minimum. And yet, all 30 MLB teams are avoiding him.
Can you say "collusion"?
Look, I'm no Bonds fan.
Is Bonds a jerk? Sure. Just one of many self-absorbed grouches to collect big-league paychecks. Would Bonds be a disruptive influence? It's possible. But La Russa doesn't worry about Bonds fitting in, and the manager has plenty of experience in dealing with prickly personalities and media circuses. And this arrangement would be only a summer rental of Bonds, not a long-term relationship.
Moreover, Bonds has motivation to be a buddy rather than a burden. If Bonds wants to revive his career and continue playing, he'll have to prove he's a solid teammate. And Bonds can be charming when he wants to be.
As much as I dislike Bonds, I find the hypocrisy surrounding Bonds to be laughable.
And in this matter, you can find plenty of double standards in St. Louis.
There's a substantial pile of evidence indicating that Bonds used steroids during his notoriously bulked-up run to the major-league career home run record. And Bonds is under indictment on perjury charges, accused of lying in grand jury testimony when he said under oath that he did not knowingly use performance-enhancing drugs. But Bonds won't stand trial until well after the baseball season, and he isn't the first MLB player to play while confronted with legal problems.
If you want to take a hard-line stance on steroids and performance-enhancing drugs, and cross Bonds out of consideration, that's commendable — as long as you have been consistent on this issue.
And that's my problem with the Bonds bashers.
Isn't this a town, and organization, that warmly supported Mark McGwire's suspicious, tainted 70-homer season in 1998? Isn't this the same fan base and organization that still adores McGwire and would embrace his return as a coach? Didn't this organization enjoy a lavish run of revenue generated by McGwire mania?
Isn't this the same organization that signed two pitchers — Ryan Franklin and Troy Cate — who failed official MLB steroids tests?
Didn't the Cardinals trade for Troy Glaus, who received multiple shipments of steroids from a Florida Internet pharmacy and California anti-aging clinic in 2003 and 2004?
Don't we all love Rick Ankiel, who received a 12-month supply of human growth hormone in 2004 from a Florida pharmacy?
Wasn't former Cardinal Cody McKay mentioned in the Mitchell Report? McKay's name was listed in the address book seized by federal agents from Kirk Radomski, who provided players with performance-enhancing drugs.
La Russa has had steroids users on his teams in Oakland and St. Louis. I'm not singling out La Russa, because you'd have to be crazy to believe that La Russa is the only manager who had juicers in his clubhouse, especially during the so-called steroids era.
The point is this: The Cardinals' organization is hardly spotless when it comes to giving jobs and support to players implicated in performance-enhancing drug investigations. The names of Cardinals and former Cardinals were splattered all over the Mitchell Report.
So now, just as Barry Bonds' name comes up, Cardinals owners and fans are suddenly transformed into passionate anti-steroids zealots?
Again, be consistent.
If you love McGwire, then Bonds can't be your devil. If you have always been opposed to the signing and the playing of suspected steroids users, then you can stand on that high moral ground and be proud.
But if you've condoned other juicers who have worn the Birds on the Bat, only to dramatically reverse course and take up an anti-Bonds stance, then I have one last thing to say:
Don't be as phony as Barry's home run record.